Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

I finally did it! I knocked back work.

People who’ve been reading my blogs for a while have probably picked up on the fact that, up until now, I’ve found it impossible to say no to a day’s work. Even though at the end of 2020 I retired, since February 2022 when the school reallly needed help, I’ve been turning up to do CRT days, (Casual Relief Teaching), or some longer contracts.

I haven’t wasted a dollar. It has all gone towards travel for me, helping with a house deposit for Tom31, helping with David29 and Izzy’s wedding, and helping with Clown College in France for Evan26.

It’s nice that I can point to all of these big projects, but…

… to be honest, 2022 and (so far) 2023, haven’t been nearly as much fun as the year i had all be myself – 2021.

Ahhh, 2021! Even in the midst of many lockdowns, 2021 was fantastic. Turns out that having total freedom at my fingertips is really wonderful.

The last couple of years while I’ve been working I’ve been driven partially by a feeling of loyalty towards my school, a loyalty forged by nearly two decades of working there. It’s engrained that if the school needs you, you do your best to help. Also, it can’t be denied that when the school’s need for teachers coincides with my children’s need for help with various big goals, it’s extremely hard to walk away from such an easy and lucrative way to help them.

I know exactly why it’s so hard for me to knock back work. After all, anyone who’s read my ‘About” page would also put two and two together without much difficulty. So many years of being poor, struggling to make ends meet, and grabbing every chance of earning money to support the boys and I have definitely left their mark.

So every time the phone rings and the offer of work is there, the pressure to accept it is huge. Especially in this time of a teacher shortage. It’s not as if by accepting work I’ll be taking the food from another family… the schools are literally finding it difficult to get enough bodies in front of classes.

I’ve discovered that if I’m asked directly, I find it impossible to say no if I don’t have something definite planned for the day. If I do have something planned, then no problem. After all, it’s rude to change plans if something else comes along!

But if the calendar is clear and it’s ‘just’ a day totally for myself, then the school gets me and my time.

But last week I tried something different.

When I was working in the new school about a month ago, I heard CRTs being offered work for the coming week by the Daily Organiser and – gasp! – they were turning her down if it didn’t suit them. (You know, just like a CRT has every right to do.)

“No thanks Donna,” they’d say. “I’m already working 3 days next week. That’s enough.”

Wow. So THAT’S how it’s done, hey? Mind blown. Donna wasn’t upset or annoyed. She’d nod and then ask the next person.

At that stage, I was still earning the money for Clown College so I was grabbing every day of work I could get, but I filed these conversations away for when I hit that goal.

A week ago I walked away from work knowing that I’d earned enough to send my boy to France. As I drove home I did some thinking.

I worked full-time in term 1 this year after the school contacted me in a mad panic because they hadn’t covered a teacher going on long service leave. I said yes, partly to help my old school and partly because I could allocate that money towards my birthday trip in September to the UK.

It was a hard slog, but I kept thinking that I’d take the whole of term 2 off to compensate. I had decided that working a day or two a week mightn’t be such a bad thing. Maybe I could get a house cleaner? Maybe I could just throw money towards expensive holidays?

Then Evan26 needed help for Clown College in France, so I swung into gear and accepted every day of work that was offered to me, thinking that I’d rather earn it as quickly as I could. I’ve lent him $6,500, which yes, I could have just drawn from my investments. However, while I’m (relatively) young and the work is there, I’d rather just get off the couch and earn it for things like this, rather than take from Future Frogdancer Jones. Who knows? She might need it down the line.

So, two weeks before the end of term 2, I hit the Clown College goal. I had already committed to working the Wednesdays in term 2, so I had 2 more days of work that I was contracted to do. But apart from that… my days were free.

Complicating this state of affairs is that I was asked if I’d work in term 3 to cover another teacher going on long service leave. I flinched as the prospect of another stint of full-time work flashed before my eyes.

It must have been obvious because the woman talking to me _ yes, I was being approached directly, which as you already know is my Achilles heel – hurriedly said, “Her position is only part-time. Three days a week.”

ARGH! How dare they offer me – IN PERSON – something so reasonable! I immediately thought that I could put that money towards North America in 2024, which is definitely not going to be a cheap holiday. I looked at the teacher’s allotment, saw that it was playing pretty much to my strengths, and said I’d do it up to a full week before I left on my trip.

I may as well totally write off 2023 to work.


I decided to carve out some time for myself for the rest of term 2 this year. Eight days just for me, not counting weekends. But it was already clear that i can’t be trusted with resolutions like this. I needed to try something different.

I rang the new school and told her that I wouldn’t be accepting work for the rest of the year. I KNOCKED BACK WORK! I don’t want to work any more than the 3 days per week next term, so I decided I might as well totaly take this new school off the table, at east for 2023.

Turns out, I can wak away from work if I pre-empt any direct offers. Nice to know!

I felt so empowered. I rang my original school and said pretty much the same thing, except for the Wednesdays that I’d already commited to. Ryan28 has some medical bills, so I may as well work towards those. Though with this school, my original school, I was nice enough stupid enough to offer the following subordinate clause… “unless you’re desperate.”

Just before 7:20 this morning my phone rang, waking me from a dead sleep. I nearly knocked it off the bedside table as I grabbed it. I looked at the name, then croaked, “Are you desperate?”

So that’s why I’m here in a Science class on a Friday, instead of on the dog beach or up a ladder painting and listening to an audiobook.

Still, on the bright side, I’m learning to say no to paid employment, which is a huge step forward for me. I can’t tell you how proud I was of myself after I finished the calls to the schools, taking me out of consideration for work.

I’ll know that the shine has well and truly gone from CRT work when I start refusing face-to-face offers of work. Obviously, I’m still not quite there yet. History is hard to shake.

Dad joke of the day:

I entered an astronomy competition.

I ddn’t win, but I won the constellation prize.


  1. Onevikinggirl

    I’m glad you are doing what you want and find satisfying, whether it is to work or not.

    • FrogdancerJones

      Thanks! I have the feeling you’re doing the same.

  2. Maureen

    Baby steps will get you there, just as well as giant leaps. You’ll know when to say no. In the meanwhile, enjoy the CRT work!

  3. Josie

    I was at a friend’s 60th birthday party recently and talked to another woman who was thinking of retiring next year from teaching (at 60yo). She was concerned about what to do with her time and wanted to hear how I liked retirement. Don’t you feel for those people?! I love how you set those boundaries!

    • Frogdancer Jones

      Isn’t it funny how people worry about being bored in retirement?
      There’s always something to do, something to read, and something to watch.
      It’s also a luxury to have time to simply Be.

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